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译文《大西洋月刊》 清醒与睡眠间的迷幻状态及对意识研究意义

已有 2594 次阅读 2017-10-17 10:47 |个人分类:译文|系统分类:科研笔记| 意识

译文:《大西洋月刊》 清醒与睡眠之间的迷幻状态,以及它如何能帮我们解决人类意识之谜

The Atlantic The Trippy State Between Wakefulness and Sleep

And how it can help solve the mystery of human consciousness.

作者:VAUGHAN BELL,   译者:康华岳


Mark Makela / Reuters


There is a brief time, between waking and sleep, when reality begins to warp. Rigid conscious thought starts to dissolve into the gently lapping waves of early stage dreaming and the world becomes a little more hallucinatory, your thoughts a little more untethered. Known as the hypnagogic state, it has received only erratic attention from researchers over the years, but a recent series of studies have renewed interest in this twilight period, with the hope it can reveal something fundamental about consciousness itself.


Traditionally, the hypnagogic state has been studied as part of the sleep disorder narcolepsy, where the brains inability to separate waking life and dreaming can result in terrifying hallucinations. But its also part of the normal transition into sleep, beginning when our mind is first affected by drowsiness and ending when we finally lose consciousness. It is brief and often slips by unnoticed, but consistent careful attention to your inner experience after you bed down can reveal an unfolding mindscape of curious sounds, abstract scenery, and tumbling thoughts. This meandering cognitive state results from what Cambridge University researcher Valdas Noreika calls a natural fragmentation of consciousnessand the idea that this can be tracked over the early minutes of sleep entry is the basis of recent hypnagogia research.


这个蜿蜒曲折的认知状态来自剑桥大学研究者Valdas Noreika 所说的“意识的自然碎片”,而人们认为,这个状态可以追溯至临睡前几分钟的整个时间段,则是新近睡前模糊研究的基础。

A recent proof-of-principle study, led by Noreika, intensively studied a single individual as he repeatedly transitioned into sleep while the brains electrical activity was recorded using EEG scalp electrodes. The would-be-sleeper was asked to press a button when he experienced an intrusive thought or image, and to verbally report it to the sleep researchers. The descriptions were pleasantly bizarre: putting a horse into a sort of violin case and zipping it up,” “the phrase learning to consume consciously from a master,” “visual image of a curled up music manuscript.


When we enter sleep, the brain steadily dismantles the models and concepts we use to interpret the world, leading to moments of experience unconstrained by our usual mental filters.

The electrical activity of the brain became steadily more predictable the longer the person lay stillsomething thats entirely normal for sleep entry. Unexpectedly though, the hypnagogic intrusions were preceded not by sudden bursts of complex brain activity, like sparks in a fading candle, but by sudden changes to a more orderly brain state. Noreika is working on the hypothesis that when we enter sleep, the brain steadily dismantles the models and concepts we use to interpret the world, leading to moments of experience unconstrained by our usual mental filters.


This is intuitively appealing and would fit with one of the most curious aspects of the hypnagogic experience: Our thoughts can stray towards tumbling horses, zips and violins but they also can seem completely unremarkable, and indeed, entirely reasonable, until we are jolted from our reverie. Only at this point do they seem odd or out-of-context.


The difficulty that people have detecting the strangeness of these experiences prompted psychologists Clemens and Jana Speth, both at the University of Dundee, to examine reports of hypnagogic intrusions. As Clemens says, the two were hoping to develop a timeline that shows what elements of consciousness decline or emerge as people drift into sleep.Applying linguistic analysis to data from a sleep lab, they found evidence that reflective thoughtthe ability to evaluate ongoing experiencedeclined quickly during the hypnagogic state while thoughts about physical interaction with the imaginary world increased, indicating a change in the structure and not just the content of conscious thought.

因为捕捉这些经验的奇特性很难,这就促使邓迪大学的心理学家Clemens Jana Speth来检查睡前模糊入侵的报道。就如Clemens所说的,他们俩希望“发展出一个时间线来展示出人们滑入睡眠时意识的什么成分下降或浮现。”运用从一个睡眠实验室得出的数据所进行的语言分析,他们发现反省性质的思绪——评估正在进行的经验的能力——在睡前模糊状态里快速下降,而关于身体与想象世界作用的思绪却提升了,这意味着清醒的思绪的结构而不只是内容发生了变化。

Similarly, by comparing the hypnagogic state to REM dreaming, a 2013 study by the same researchers confirmed the long-noted observation that while dreams often feel fully immersive, hypnagogia tends to be experienced as if we were passive observerswith the hallucinatory thoughts and images occurring as a projection on our existing sense of reality. (In a famous passage on hypnagogia in Oliver Twist, Dickens wrote of the visionary scenes that pass before us.) The fact that our sense of immersion and reflective distance from our own experience do not always co-occur during sleep may suggest they also have different roles in waking consciousness.


Researchers are working not only as neuroscientists but also as archivists of the unconstrained mind.

Admittedly, studies from this new wave of interest in hypnagogia are small and still tentative but they reflect a growing trend towards understanding sleep not just as a state of rest and consolidation, but also as a scientific tool for observing the components of consciousness as they are stripped away for entry into slumber. What these studies may be hinting at, is that the brain processes involved in sustaining consciousness might also be central to maintaining a stable, insightful experience of the worldin other words, keeping  hallucinations in check.


Francesca Siclari, a sleep and consciousness researcher at the University Hospital of Lausanne, in Switzerland, also hopes this new wave of interest will result in more practical benefits. The transition to sleep provides a unique opportunity, as one can study how changes in consciousness relate to changes in brain activity,she says. This process is not only fundamental to the study of consciousness, it may also shed light on sleep disorders that are associated with an abnormal transition to sleep.

Francesca Siclari是一个来瑞士自洛桑大学医院的睡眠和意识研究者,她也希望这股新的兴趣能产生出更多实用性的益处。“转入睡眠这个时期提供了一个独一无二的机会,因为人们可以借此研究意识的变化与大脑活动之间是如何关联的,”她说。“这个过程不仅仅对于意识研究而言是基础性的,它或许也会对睡眠失调的研究产生启发,因为睡眠失调涉及到一个入睡时的异常转变。”

But there is a more whimsical aspect to this work. Sleep researchers across the world are now dedicated to recording some of the most ephemeral moments of human weirdness, which are often lost to memory after the drama and haze of dream and sleep. Talking bears are being documented. Falling school friends, noted. Researchers are working not only as neuroscientists but also as archivists of the unconstrained mind.



VAUGHAN BELL is a writer based in London. He is a senior clinical lecturer at University College London and a clinical psychologist with the U.K.s National Health Service.


VAUGHAN BELL是一个在伦敦的作者。他是伦敦大学学院的高级临床讲师,以及英国国家健康服务系统的临床心理学家。




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